We had the good fortune of connecting with Sandra Mack-Valencia and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sandra, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Hello. Risk is always part of being an artist entrepreneur. Even though we have heard that it is easy to “play it safe”, I actually believe that it is more difficult to stick to the norm if you know in your heart that you should be doing something different. To fight your own passion is way more painful than to go for it. There are two big risks I have taken in my life, and that I am grateful I did. The first one was when I decided to quit my engineering studies and pursue my art career. I was studying Civil Engineering at La Universidad de Antioquia, one of the most prestigious public universities in Medellín, Colombia. I knew in my heart of hearts I wanted to be a painter, and when I started picturing my life as an engineer I got so overwhelmed that the next day I spoke to my advisor and dropped out of college. It was extremely difficult because I had lost my admission rights to a University that allowed only around 2,000 students out of 20,0000. I had to go through the entire process again when I applied for the Fine Arts Bachelor program. I remember jumping up and down of happiness when I found out I had been admitted again. The second risk happened only two years ago, when I left my day time job, and the stability of getting a paycheck and benefits, to become a full time artist. It was not easy but I knew I was ready. That was one of the best things I could have ever done. I love going to my art studio every morning and pursuing my dream. I love creating projects, collaborating with other artists, participating in art-related activities, etc. Life is too short. Once you take the risk, you realize that maybe you were more scared than you should have been. It will all fall into place once you follow your call.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The love for what I do. I am a figurative painter, that is, you can recognize forms in what I do. I often combine painting with photography because I believe photos are already embedded with a memory feeling that I want to adhere to my paintings. They add magic to the works. My paintings have a narrative aspect, that is, you could come up with your own stories when you experience them. As a child, I loved listening to stories and I was obsessed with fables, short essays and fairy tales. As a teenager I was fascinated by the magical realism literary movement, and now I can see how it has had an impact on my visual work. I work in series, because different things interest me at different times. So you will find queens, elephants, fantastic landscapes, bejeweled animals, chandeliers, and other elements throughout the different painting series I have developed. Being a painter is not an easy task. There are still stereotyped ideas that make it hard to run a business when you are in the creative field. For example, some people think that because we do what we love for a living, that we should do it for free, or that we should give away our work in exchange of “exposure”. Well, let me tell you, exposure does not pay the bills, and what we do should be as respected and valuable as what your physician, architect, cook, or concierge does. It is a constant battle to educate people on this. Running a business is also a test to your patience. Being persistent is key. There have been times when things seem to be still, nothing happens, and you don’t find a reason to be pushing so hard, but keep pushing and something will happen. The most important thing is to be doing what you love, That is when you realize that stopping is more painful than going forward.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I live in New York and I guarantee you there is no way you could get bored here. If you come to visit I’d make sure I take you to some touristic and not so touristic places: We could take a walk on the High Line. We could start at the Vessel Hudson Yards so you could climb up the vessel and experience breathtaking views of the city, not to mention of the vessel itself. Since we are there, we could visit The Shed Cultural Center and check out the space and the current exhibit they might have on view. Afterwards, we will take a walk on the High Line, get down on Chelsea and do some gallery hopping to some of the hundreds of galleries in the area. Since we might be hungry after all that, we could go for some Italian food at Pepe Giallo. It is delicious, great ambiance, and good prices. We should also visit Brooklyn, walk along the busy and eclectic streets in Williamsburg. I would take you to my friend’s Sex Boutique “Shag” where you could sign up for a kinky seminar, check out the current art exhibit, or buy lingerie, jewelry, postcards, and other fun stuff from local artists and crafters. We could also visit some of the flea markets and bookstores in the area, and have some French food at the Juliette Restaurant. Most people stay in Manhattan, but what about getting out of Manhattan so you can see the skyline? I’d take you to Long Island City in Queens where we would walk along the Hudson river. You’d be surprised by the beautiful parks along the river, and the amazing view of Manhattan. It is truly an amazing experience. Since we are there, we could grab a drink and dinner at Blends Restaurant on the water, they offer the most delicious latin fusion food in the area, and the most incredible view as well. New York has way too much to see and to do. Going to a musical on Broadway, experiencing the craziness of Times Square, going to the stunning churches like the Cathedrals of Saint John The Divine, and Saint Patrick”s Cathedral, Also, visiting museums is a must, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the renewed Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum, The Frick Collection, The Morgan Library, and so many more. Of course one cannot leave New York without strolling around Central Park, and eating pizza! but make sure you go to a good pizza shop. My favorite one is in Soho, its name is Prince Street Pizza. Just come! you will have the time of your life!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The list is too long. I was lucky to have supportive parents. My dad, Manuel Valencia was a talented painter that still inspires me. My mom, Omaira Alvarez is such a strong and avant-garde woman, she has a positive attitude and she is extremely smart and supportive. My husband Kenny Mack, who encouraged me to become a full time artist. My artist friends Laura Fayer and Barbara Ellmann that set examples of persistence and excellence. My brother Diego Valencia who is a tenacious sportsman and sets high standards of discipline example. The owner of AnArte Gallery in Texas, Ana Montoya, who represents my work and gave me the opportunity to expose my paintings to a new audience. My professor Gabriel Montoya, who was a true bohemian. I spent the most amazing years of my life under his wing. I could go on and on. I am a lucky person. I am surrounded by precious souls.
Artworks pictures were photographed by Paul Takeuchi in New York.